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Learning from Mistakes and Being Off Balance on Purpose

Our Michigan Digital Summit was held this past week, and the opening keynote was truly different in a fun way.

Our Michigan Digital Summit was held this past week, and the opening keynote was truly different – in a fun way. Dan Thurman motivated, challenged, inspired and entertained us while illustrating concepts from his two books: Off Balance On Purpose and Success in Action. To get a sense for what this acrobatic performance is like, check out this preview video.

Trying to summarize his presentation is a bit like trying to tell a young child about the circus. Words certainly don’t have the same impact as the visual experience. Still, I’m taking a stab at some of the points that I took away from Dan Thurman’s high-powered performance.

1)      We must have commitment to our platform. Oftentimes, we must commit before we have everything figured out. Once we make the commitment, we gain new energy and ideas. (This first point came as Dan prepared to “redo” his opening with a triple flip on the stage.)

2)       Transformation only comes when bold promises are backed up by consistent daily action. Our actions must match our words. This point was backed up with the story of Harry Lind, who is known to be one of the greatest American jugglers (scroll down to see his life story and how he made clubs to juggle). Despite many setbacks is life, he kept practicing and improving.

3)      Learn from mistakes. Thurman said we are all “professional jugglers” in life. We learn the most from what we drop. We must choose our team members very carefully. Exchange ideas, stories, and vision with others – as well as honestly about mistakes made and what works and what doesn’t.

4)      Day to day we are off balance – pulled by different priorities in life. We need to lean forward intentionally and boldly (as he described and showed us how to ride a unicycle.)  We will never have perfect balance in life – thus we need to be off balance – but on purpose. Always look “down path.” Be ready for what’s next. Anticipate change.

5)      Do one thing, really, really fast – Multitasking really doesn’t work. Our brains need to relearn “a new thing” which might include two other synthesized tasks. Just because you do two different tasks well (one at a time), doesn’t mean you can do the same two tasks well at the same time. (His example was texting and driving.) You must practice the new task (he joked that he was not advocating texting and driving at once.) Thurman was very funny throughout his presentation – throwing in lines like, “this is like cloud computing” when riding a unicycle and juggling at once.

6)      Take action when you have the opportunity. You need to be ready to embrace new things you’ve never done before. The next challenge will always be different than you first envisioned. But … you made a commitment, so you must follow-through with that.

7)      There is always space between the throws and actions. (This was illustrated while teaching us to juggle more balls). The better you get, the more you learn to see the space and the process slows down for you. This is true in life as well. (Sports side note: I hear that NFL quarterbacks get batter when the game “slows down” for them and they see the field better.)

8)      To improve, we need to “up the risk.” (To learn to improve at juggling four balls, Dan needed to practice juggling five balls.) He also added knives into the juggling and not just wood clubs. If you think what you’re doing is difficult, try doing something even harder. Be always learning.

9)      Do whatever you are passionate about. Dan became one of the best by practicing juggling, despite setbacks.

10)   With every gift comes responsibility. Thurman told the story of how he was given Harry Lind’s clubs by a man he met at a performance. (You never know who is in the crowd.) We must use the gifts we are given and improve. Also, pass the gift on to others – be a mentor.

If you want to learn more from Dan Thurman, I encourage you to watch the videos and/or read his books. (I am certain that this brief summary does not do justice to his many illustrated points.

In conclusion, I have heard many talks on work/life balance. I have even written a few pieces on our need for unplugging during vacations, how we get too many emails, the seven habits of online integrity and related topics as well.  However, Dan Thurman gets his points across more powerfully, since he illustrates his points in fun ways that grab the audience. If you get the chance to hear him speak, go for it. He really got the 2 day conference off to a great start.

Any other thoughts from attendees at the Michigan Digital Summit or others who have heard Dan Thurman speak?


Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.